[You can learn more about Ian’s music here.]
Nils Frahm, Spaces (Bandcamp): I am fortunate to have seen Nils once at the Cedar Cultural Center in MPLS. It was pretty amazing to watch him perform. He had the stage completely full of pianos, synths, analogue delays and whatever else. It was sort of like watching a mad scientist at work. This record, Spaces, is a collection of live recordings, which might be why it’s one of my favorites. Although, you tend to forget it’s live because the music really does take you some place else and it’s only when you hear the occasional applause that you are reminded of it. The music is ambient, beautiful, often minimal, and I’m almost always in the mood to hear it.
Tiny Ruins, Brightly Painted One (Bandcamp): For me this record fits in nicely between Nick Drake’s Pink Moon and Jeremy Enigk’s Return of the Frog Queen. Holly Fullbrook is a songwriter from New Zealand who crafts really beautiful songs that seem effortless and genuine. She plays finger style guitar, which I am a sucker for and is accompanied by very tasteful musicians. To top it off David Lynch produced a 7 inch of theirs, which sounds made up.
Shiner, Schadenfreude (Bandcamp): One of my favorite rock bands of all time came back after 20 years to prove they’re just as good as ever. I wasn’t surprised by this considering who they are as musicians and people — each one uniquely talented and badass. This record goes beyond the total sum of its parts for sure. I don’t always listen to rock, but when I do I listen to Shiner!
David Bazan, Care (Bandcamp): I liked the band Pedro the Lion well enough at the time but feel David Bazan keeps getting better with every record he’s released since. I remember being completely surprised and taken in by the record he did under the name Headphones shortly after Pedro the Lion broke up. Then his solo record Curse Your Branches made me a full-fledged fan. I don’t usually give too much attention to lyrics unless they’re really good or really bad and thankfully his are the former. Such a good songwriter. This record is more electronic based and dark which he does really, really well.
The Kinks, Lola vs. Powerman and the Moneygoround (Spotify): Probably my favorite Kinks record but that’s also impossible to say for sure. I never seem to go very long without playing them on the stereo. There are still so many bands trying hard to write songs like Ray Davies. He was able to take the same chords as everyone else and make magic. This record in particular is full of that magic and spans so many different styles and moods. It’s impossible to put The Kinks in a category and you just can’t go wrong with this record.
Grouper, Ruins (Bandcamp): I guess Liz Harris grew up in a commune and has an interesting backstory but I don’t really need to know any of this to be interested in everything she produces. Her music stands on its own without sounding like anyone else which is good because you can enjoy it for what it is, super beautiful. It’s like watching a bonfire. This record is mostly her voice and a piano. It’s minimal and moody and doesn’t contain any unwanted surprises.